This homemade Hot Cocoa recipe will not only satisfy your sweet tooth but will warm your soul!  You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make a cup of homemade hot cocoa.
On cold days most people enjoy warm, comforting food (like Butternut Squash Soup or Jambalaya), and a hot beverage like hot cocoa is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the season!
 Two clear mugs of hot cocoa with whipped cream on top.

I was fortunate to grow up skiing and snowboarding all winter long, and one of my favorite things to do with friends was to take our lunch break at a lodge and order a drink to warm us up. There’s really nothing tastier on a cold day than a mug of creamy hot cocoa (with whipped cream on top, of course!) This recipe is amazing–not too sweet—just perfect!

Hot Cocoa vs. Hot Chocolate: Don’t be fooled

While most people recognize hot cocoa and hot chocolate as the same thing, the big difference between the two has everything to do with the chocolate that is used to make them. Traditionally, hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder while hot chocolate is made with melted pieces of chocolate.

Next time you see hot chocolate at the grocery store, check the ingredients.  Chances are, you’re really buying hot cocoa even if the name suggests otherwise.  Swiss Miss, Nestlé, and Ghirardelli are really selling hot cocoa (main ingredients: sugar, cocoa powder, and milk) rather than a drink made with melted chocolate.  You’ll also notice a host of other strange ingredients and thank yourself for taking ten minutes to make it from scratch instead!

Homemade Hot Cocoa in 10 minutes:

1. Combine the cocoa and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add a dash of salt and stir in the boiling water.

2. Simmer. Bring the mixture back to a slow boil and reduce heat to a simmer stirring continually for 2 minutes.

A saucepan with cocoa powder and sugar, then boiling water added.

3. Add milk.  Stir in milk and heat until very hot, but not boiling!

4. Add vanilla. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide between 4 mugs.

5. Add the half & half to the mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature. Top with whipped cream if desired!

A saucepan with homemade hot cocoa and a whisk and hand towel on the side.

Making ahead and storing Hot Cocoa:

To make ahead:  This recipe is best made fresh (it’s so fast too), but hot cocoa can be made 2-3 days ahead of time.  Reheat hot cocoa slowly on the stovetop to avoid boiling it as it will cause the half and half to separate.

To store. Store hot cocoa covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.  Reheat slowly to avoid boiling.

CONSIDER TRYING THESE YUMMY HOLIDAY DRINKS:

A mug of hot cocoa with fresh whipped cream on top, and another mug and bowl of whipped cream in the background.

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Recipe

A mug of hot cocoa with fresh whipped cream on top, and another mug and bowl of whipped cream in the background.
Prep 5 mins
Cook 5 mins
Total 10 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Ingredients
  

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • dash of salt
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half (or evaporated milk)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • Combine the cocoa and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Add a dash of salt and the boiling water. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, stirring continuously.
  • Once boiling, turn down to a simmer and stir continually for 2 minutes. 
  • Stir in milk and heat until very hot, but not boiling!
  • Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide between 4 mugs.
  • Add the half & half to the mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature. 
  • Top with whipped cream if desired!

Notes

To store. Store hot cocoa covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.  Reheat slowly to avoid boiling.
To make ahead:  This recipe is best made fresh (it's so fast too), but hot cocoa can be made 2-3 days ahead of time.  Reheat hot cocoa slowly on the stovetop to avoid boiling it as it will cause the half and half to separate.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 315kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 8gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 105mgPotassium: 413mgFiber: 2gSugar: 27gVitamin A: 785IUCalcium: 270mgIron: 1.1mg

Did You Make This Recipe?

Tag @TastesBetterFromScratch on Instagram with #TastesBetterFromScratch!

I originally shared this recipe November 2013. Updated November 2019 with process photos and additional instructions.

Recipe adapted from All Recipes.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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  1. 5 stars
    Amazing!!!!! I added less milk than in the recipe (2 1/3 cups and the normal amount of half and half) so it would be a little richer but thats just my personal tastes. This is my go to recipie for now on 🙂